It was just the World Cup ticket
I WISH I was a Swiss burglar. If that was my chosen profession I'd be crossing the border laden down with clocks, expensive chocolate and cow bells right now because every man, woman and child from there was in Dortmund yesterday.
I WISH I was a Swiss burglar. If that was my chosen profession I'd be crossing the border laden down with clocks, expensive chocolate and cow bells right now because every man, woman and child from there was in Dortmund yesterday. At least that's what it felt like.
To you, sitting at home wondering whether to bother tuning in to Togo v Switzerland just after lunch, the game did not take on much significance I'm sure but to those of us who travelled to Germany with a change of clothes, a smile but no tickets, it takes on a massive significance.
Brazil matches? No chance of a spare ticket under 200 euros. Germany? Forget it. But when Togo play, opportunity raises its shaven head and asks you slyly in a Scouse accent if you “need any tickets, like.”
Before anyone tuts at this point and recalls promises by the Germans that this would be a toutless tournament, they were living in Swiss cloud cuckoo clock land. In the streets around Dortmund's impressive Westfalstadion yesterday I saw people waving spares above their heads like a street magician shuffling a pack of cards.
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And here's the thing. Togo were sent more tickets by FIFA than England. No, it's true. Because they only seeded Brazil and Germany as regards the size of the stadiums they would be playing in (the FA asked them to take our massive travelling support into account to no avail, by all accounts) then it was totally random for all the other countries.
So, while England are to play in Cologne's 40,000 capacity Rhineenergie Stadion tonight, Togo and Switzerland squared up yesterday in a ground that holds 66,000.
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And the fact that Togo got so many tickets was the main reason there were so many touts hanging around the main station in Dortmund yesterday. One, seeing me looking lost and English-looking, sidled up and offered a pair of category ones (the best views) for 20 euros below their face value.
When I started to haggle, he hissed “not here” and ushered me aside to the nearby pharmacist, away from the prying eyes of the police.
And so it was that, by the make-up counter, two grown men engaged in serious conversation while trying not to look suspicious. If it wasn't so important, I would have laughed.
Getting a ticket is only half the fight though, getting into the ground then presents a new set of problems. Queuing up behind hundreds of swaying Swiss fans clutching a ticket that said I was part of the official Togolese Federation, it was easy to let the imagination run riot.
In the worse case scenario, I would be led away from the turnstile to a small room with no windows where a man with a small moustache and horn-rimmed spectacles would tell me “Herr Mellen, we haf ways of telling you how you got zis ticket.”
There was also the danger that they would ask me to sing the Togo national anthem, and I'm hazy on the lyrics these days.
In the end, none of this happened, and I was able to skip - yes, I confess I was so happy to get in that I did do some sort of jig up the stairs - into the jaw-dropping surrounds of Dortmund's awesome ground.
You're lost for words when you first emerge. When I tell you that one end alone holds 25,000 supporters, you get some idea of the scale of the place.
And it was rammed with red faces, flags and shirts yesterday. There were so many Swiss there it felt like being inside a Babybel cheese.
They generated numerous Mexican waves (which they 'chased' around the ground by shouting “Hey!..Hey!..Hey!” as though they were herding cows back home), sang lots of songs which involved not many words, but a lot of swaying, and performed a short ditty about Heidi, which I gathered was not about her capabilities with hand-rearing goats.
And they got the result they wanted, as did I. It's all very well watching games on big screens and mixing with the rest of the World, but we're all here to see games.
So if you'll excuse me, I have a train to catch. Cologne calls, and I expect the tickets will be a lot dearer there.